Tech giant Google is seemingly always looking for new ways to push the limits of what artificial intelligence can be and do through experimentation, and its latest AI plaything has learned how to craft algorithmically optimized cookie recipes. It all started with a Google team in Pittsburgh looking to test out an AI that they were creating for experimental design. Meant to create experiments by adjusting variables and monitoring experiment results to tweak things until it got the desired outcome, the AI got its first real-world test by teaming up with a local bakery to create the perfect chocolate chip cookie.
The whole experiment revolved around Bayesian Optimization, a design strategy that, in AI technique form, essentially boils down to figuring out the best possible result with a given set of variables. The variables in question were cookie ingredients. With the variables set in place, the AI team in Pittsburgh started with a basic cookie recipe, rated it against generic store-bought cookies, and fed that data back into the AI to see what it would do with the information. Through many iterations, the AI got better and better at crafting cookie recipes. This technique is essentially the AI equivalent of Pavlovian training, a psychological trope that consists of serving a subject positive or negative stimuli in association with other stimuli, essentially programming a response. The name comes from originator Igor Pavlov, who demonstrated it in dogs by training them to salivate when they heard a bell, knowing food was about to be served.
To help it transcend the variables set before it and start to creatively enhance recipes with new ingredients and methods, the team brought in Jeanette Harris, founder of local bakery The Gluten Free Goat Bakery & Cafe. Along with the Google team's resident chef, Harris started putting some more unusual ingredients into the mix to expand the AI's horizons, and the machine eventually settled on a recipe that involves some seriously atypical ingredients for a chocolate chip cookie, with cardamom as the star of the show. That recipe can be found in the gallery below, if you'd like to try it yourself. It even comes with precise instructions, making it nearly impossible to bake the cookies in a way that the AI didn't intend.